March 28th, 2011
08:41 AM ET

How should I treat my daughter's lice?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

My 10-year-old daughter was just treated for lice for the third time this school year. What's the best way to get rid of them, and how can I make sure she doesn't get it again?

Asked by Carol of Dunwoody, Georgia

Thanks for your question. Head lice is very common in children, especially between 3 and 12 years of age. The insects can be found crawling around the hairline and lay their eggs on the hair shafts close to a person's scalp. Lice do not carry infectious diseases and are not a sign of a person's cleanliness, but they are a nuisance and can be difficult to treat.

Lice are transmitted from one person to another by direct contact (lice must crawl from one head to another; they do not jump or fly), and can spread during sleepovers or when working or playing closely together. The insects may also move from one person to another if objects such as hats or hairbrushes are shared.

The key to getting rid of lice is to remove all live lice and prevent eggs that are attached to the hair from hatching. There are many possible treatments, ranging from physically removing the bugs and their eggs from the hair to using medicated products to kill the lice and/or their eggs. If the eggs are not removed, they may hatch after a week or two, and the process to get rid of the live lice would then need to be repeated.

• Picking or combing. Both lice and eggs may be removed by painstakingly picking out or finely combing all parts of the hair. This process may need to be repeated for several days or even a few weeks to make sure everything has been removed.

• Home remedies. Many people have tried smothering lice by leaving household products such as mayonnaise, vinegar, or petroleum jelly on the hair overnight and then washing it out the next morning. Cetaphil cleanser has also been reported to treat lice. It should go without saying that one should not use potentially toxic products such as gasoline or kerosene - although they may kill the lice, they are also hazardous to children. Bottom line: If the home remedy is not harmful, it may be worth a try.

• Dry heat. A special machine called the LouseBuster delivers a controlled amount of heated air to dry hair with the goal of killing both lice and their eggs. It is designed for use by trained individuals in settings such as schools, camps, or clinics. Regular hair dryers can cause live lice to become airborne and spread to other people nearby and are therefore not recommended.

• Medicated treatments. Over-the-counter medicated lotions such as permethrin (Nix) and pyrethrin formulations (RID or Pronto) can be very effective in killing live lice. Prescription treatments such as benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia) and malathion (Ovide) may be successful even if the lice are resistant to the over-the-counter preparations. Ask your doctor which one is recommended in your community, and be sure to follow the product directions regarding how much to use, whether to apply to wet or dry hair, and how long to leave it on before washing. These products often need to be repeated within 7 to 10 days.

• Lice removal services. Some caregivers may choose to outsource the lice removal process to companies dedicated to getting rid of head lice. These companies may rely upon a combination of the above therapies.

• Treat the environment. It can be helpful to wash and dry clothing and bedding using hot water and high heat and to vacuum furniture, carpets, and car seats. Consider placing items that are difficult to wash (such as stuffed animals and pillows) in a plastic bag for two weeks to be sure that any remaining eggs will not hatch and survive.

• Avoid contact with lice. Even if you successfully remove all the lice and eggs from your daughter's hair, it's possible to be reinfested by someone else who has not been adequately treated. Teach children to be extra careful to avoid touching heads with one another. It's also a good idea to keep hats, jackets, combs, brushes, towels, and other personal items separated, although once a louse has been removed from its human host, it will die within a day or two unless it finds another warm scalp to live on.

• Extreme measures. While shaving a child's hair can definitely also remove lice and eggs, this drastic step is often not necessary.

Please be sure to contact your child's pediatrician if you have any other questions. Good luck!

soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. marieke

    If you want to try a treatment that contains none of the harmful pesticides in many of the other treatments, I suggest using Quit Nits by an Australian Company called Wild Child. I had once done some research on this product for a publishing company that I worked for (I am not affiliated with the company), and feel it may be a great all-natural, non-toxic treatment. Their website is http://www.quitnits.us/ and you can purchase their product in many national chain pharmacies as well as health food stores.

    March 28, 2011 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. cheddar

    Items don't need to be packed up for two weeks - lice die within a couple of days without human contact. Putting stuffed animals, pillows, and comforter in a garbage bag for a few days will be good enough.

    March 28, 2011 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mom-of-tweens

      I put a hairbrush in a plastic bag and a full week later saw a louse crawling around in there among the bristles. I can only assume that the louse was a nit when I put it in the bag and sometime along the way it hatched. My daughter saw it, too, and we were both grossed out and amazed that it was alive. I wouldn't mess around with lice. They might surprise you.

      We finally got rid of them with mayonnaise. Worked great. Left hair shiny and soft. You still have to pick all the nits out, though.

      March 28, 2011 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
  3. Brandon

    DONT UNDER ESTIMATE LICE !!!!! My wife has lice last summer and it was a nightmare. The best way to get rid of lice is to be a "nit picker"! Plan on taking several hours to do it cause it is very time consuming, and do it outside in the natural light. I litterally went strand by strand of my wifes hair to find the nits (lice eggs) and pull them out one by one, and my wife has alot of hair. Heres what worked for her: 1. soak your head in olive oil, go to the store and get some cheap oil, soak you head good and leave it on for several hours, the longer the better. This will suffocate any live lice on your scalp, and concentrate on the back of your head and neck. 2. wash out the olive oil, any dead lice will come out with the oil. Dry your hair with a hot hair dryer, this will take care of any survivers although there shouldnt be any. 3. Start pickin', get a good set of tweezers, and a comb with a pick so you can separate the hair. Start at the back of your head and work forward, use clips to hold together the hair that was already gone through. Know what you are looking for, the best way to tell if it is a nit or not is to blow on it, if its dandruff it will move, if its a nit it wont move and it will be stuck to the hair. 4 after you are done there wait a day and get an over the counter lice killer, you can try this first but it seems lice are getting tolerant of the chemicals used to kill them. And lastly, monitor your hair closely afterward. I did find nits after all of this but nothing ever broke out again, I guess just a few I missed. Good Luck you are gonna need it.

    March 28, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. elise

    Tea Tree Oil is very useful, at least in avoiding infestations. A drop on the crown of their head (top most point, where heat is generated) after every shampoo and my kid was the ONLY one in his class that didn't get it. Lice hate the smell. I have heard, but never had to use it, that it is also an effective, non chemical way to kill them–apply to the head liberally (it smells pretty bad in my opinion–musky) let sit for 1/2 hour, then wash the hair–picking nits still necessary I think.
    It is natural, and repels them... We use it daily–just a drop or two after shampooing.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karen

      Great tip on the Tea Tree Oil. Thanks! We have already spent over $100 last summer and fall battling infestations on my daughter. I want to do what I can to prevent it from happening again.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:45 | Report abuse |
    • EandIsMom

      I have found the same with Coconut oil shampoo. No problems since we switched to a coconut oil shampoo even though lice have been through the school several times and my daughter has long hair.

      My favorite lice removal method is olive oil on with a cap for 10-15 min then use the comb which is rinsed in a dish of very hot water between passes. I used the chemical stuff and for 24 hours I was feeling very wonky and unsteady. I thought I was sick until the same thing happened when I retreated. [I usually do not have side effects from skin products or medication.] It would take an awful lot for me to ever touch that stuff again given how sever my reaction was.

      March 28, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • Stacy

      Yes the Tea Tree oil does work! They make it in a shampoo form too. I ran out and am going to go get some more ASAP. I started scratching by the second sentence!

      March 28, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse |

      as an herbalist and a lice removal spealist..please be careful of the tea tree oil. Although, lice do not like the smell, it can cause burns to the scalp. Please dilute tea tree oil with water before applying to the scalp. I have seen the burns personally.

      March 30, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
  5. asgardshill

    Shave their heads – problem solved.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Marita Gomez

    Ulesfia has been shown to be effective in killing lice. The active ingredient in Ulesfia works by paralyzing the breathing holes, or lungs, of head lice. Then the other ingredients clog the breathing holes, causing the lice to suffocate. There's a web site that shows how Ulesfia works. Go to: http://www.ulesfialotion.com

    March 28, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Priscilla

      yes-Ulesfia was the only thing that worked on my daughter. She has really thick, really long hair and we had a terrible time with it. If she gets re-infested in the future, i'll forgo the otc treatments and stick with Ulesfia!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
  7. Richard Pollack

    Dr. Shu's review is quite good and reasonably comprehensive. I'll add a few additional issues to consider. 1. Many cases of head lice are misdiagnosed. Before you consider treating, find a live (crawling) insect, and make sure it is a louse. More often than not, parents find nits (louse eggs) or nit-like objects. These are not sufficient basis on which to treat. 2. Repeated discoveries of head lice on a child during a year may result from several separate instances of being reinfested, either from a playmate or a family member, or they may represent one chronic infestation that hasn't been eliminated. Often, two well-timed treatments are necessary. In some cases, the lice may be resistant to the product applied. A physician should then be consulted to consider prescription pediculicides that contain a different kind of active ingredient. 3. Nit-picking is not a practical means to eliminate an infestation. If parents wish to pursue that option and even pay someone else to provide the service, then that is fine for cosmetic reasons. There is no medical or scientific need to remove all the nits to eliminate the infestation. Most nit-like objects are composed of dead or hatched eggs (which cannot give rise to another louse), or are merely bits of scalp debris. 4. Many of the 'alternative products' mentioned by others have little, if any, basis for the claims of efficacy or safety. Finally, readers may find it insightful to read the recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. – Richard Pollack, PhD., IdentifyUS LLC.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doc

      There is no medical or scientific need to remove all the nits to eliminate the infestation. You say... Are you unaware of the secondary infections associated with an on going infestation? I believe you need to continue your research....

      March 28, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse |
    • Relictus

      I appreciate the input from a medical professional.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
    • Lulu

      Given that schools & care providers will NOT allow a child to return until all nits – even those obviously dead/hatched – are gone, I'd say there is reason to eliminate them all. Repeated infestations in schools are usually the result of careless or clueless parents not taking the presence of a few nits seriously.

      March 28, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
    • Richard Pollack

      Doc: Secondary infection results from scratching, whether the itching derives from a bite from a louse, flea or mosquito. Head lice would not be expected to transmit infections.
      Lulu: The problem you raise is caused by the unjustified no-nit policies, not from the lice. Eliminating the archaic policies (as have many schools) benefits the kids, their parents and the schools. Read information on my website (https://identify.us.com/head-lice/index.html) and follow the links there to the reports by the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of School Nurses, and the CDC.

      March 29, 2011 at 08:28 | Report abuse |
  8. beenthere donethat

    My daughter has fought lice numerous times. Most commercial and/or home remedies didn't work because her hair is too thick. We did buy the RID metal combs and those REALLY worked with the treatment we did. Basically, education about the life cycle of the lice is imperative - it's 7-10 days and that's it! For the first 3 days we would wash her hair morning and night with Denorex Extra Strength two-in-one shampoo - letting it sit on her head for a few minutes while she stood in the warm shower. A lot of the egg-laying-capable adults would simply wash down the drain when we rinse her hair. Then we'd do the fine-tooth comb, removing even more of the smaller lice. Every morning was a trip to the dryer for her sheets – 30 minutes on high. By day 2 we'd hardly get any lice at all. Day 4-5 we might get a couple of very small, recently hatched buggers, but they didn't get to stay on her long enough to live. Nits themselves are EMPTY eggs. I have seen a full egg and they are huge in comparison to the nits. Truly, nits can stay in the hair until they grow out. 7-10 days of that and the lice are gone. The problem is, not a lot of parents are that committed and thus the re-infestations at school and when friends sleep over! Good luck!

    March 28, 2011 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristin

      I agree that education about the lifecycle is important. It is possible to resolve a lice infestation without any chemicals or treatments whatsoever but it requires an insane amount of time and patience. When my daughter had her first infestation I ran to the drugstore and got the first pesticide I could find. However, I soon came to realize that the effectiveness of the OTC treatments was questionable and I was subjecting my daughter to a potentially harmful chemical in the process.

      After reading a lot about the subject, I decided that I could get rid of the lice if I simply combed through her hair thoroughly and methodically every day to get rid of any live lice because I would be catching the adult lice and the babies as they are hatching. Since the lifecycle of a louse is 7-10 days, if you do this diligently for that amount of time you will get rid of all of the adult lice so they can't lay any new eggs and you'll catch the baby lice before they are capable of laying new eggs.

      I would sit her in the bathroom and section her wet hair using hairdresser clips and then tiny section by tiny section use the lice comb to pull out any living lice. I didn't worry about picking nits as it's easier to pull out the live louse once it hatches using the comb. I would do every night for the first 4-5 days and then every other night until a total period of 2 weeks had passed. Then I would check periodically.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
  9. julle

    blow drying and hot hair straighteners are great ways to fight those little pests!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shannon

      I agree! That is the only thing that worked when my daughter (who has thick, waist-length hair) got lice. I fought them for three weeks. One night, after washing it, she wanted me to blow dry it so she wouldn't go to bed with wet hair. They literally fell out. I did this every day for two weeks. No sign of them again.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
    • rmax

      Hot flat irons and curling irons worked for us after we did all the treatments and cleaned and bagged everything possible.

      March 28, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
  10. Marita Gomez

    The comments made by Dr. Pollack (who happens to be one of the country's leading head lice experts) are right on! Many parents often mistake debris or other bugs that may have blown into the hair by accident as lice infestation. That's why it's important to first get a diagnosis before panicking.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Katie

    Don't panic and don't feel bad. Lice infestation can happen to anyone. The comb is the thing, and a lot of patience. Wash your hairbrushes, don't share them with other kids. You can put hats and small things like that in the freezer overnight, that'll kill anything that might have been left behind in them. I personally didn't use the OTC stuff – too many chemicals – but we managed to get rid of the lice and we managed to keep them from coming back. It took time and a lot of diligence. Hang in there, you're not alone.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Linda

    Saturate hair with Listerine..... This kills the live lice. Cover hair with plastic. Leave on for 2 hours. Rinse.... Saturate hair with white vinegar. This loosens the glue that the nits adhere to the hair. Cover head with plastic and leave on for 2 hours. Wash and comb everything out... Store bought products don't work that well.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ljcjec

      The Listerine and vinegar method definitely works. We tried two rounds of OTC chemicals on my daughter with no success when I read about the Listerine/vinegar method and we have never had a problem with lice again.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
  13. Donna

    Over the counter remedies didn't seem to work. > > I put my daugher over the sink, face up and poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol (make sure face up otherwise the fumes) and then i wrapped her head in a shower cap and a hat and left it for about 2 hours, afteward we washed her hair and they dropped out and i only had to go after the nits which were dried up from the alcohol. After trying every other remedy over the years i found this the best one.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Misty Janssen

      I did this too, followed by using Cetaphil...

      March 28, 2011 at 18:07 | Report abuse |
  14. Larry Rigby

    Hair dryers do not deliver consistent results and can cause burns. (See study: http://www.lousebuster.com/t-LouseBuster-History.aspx) LouseBuster treatments take 30 minutes, delivered by a trained professional. The unique effect is that the controlled high-flow hot air gets the eggs (99.2%). This treatment is science based with data published in two peer-reviewed journals and cleared by the FDA.
    A great new option.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jamie Lynn

    One month after School started my daughter came home with head lice. It was probraly one of the most awful experieces I have had and that is partly my fault. I went about it the wrong way...it freaked me out and the first thing I did was go to the pharmacy and get the first treatment that I saw. The treatment was RidX and although it has harmful chemicals which I was well aware of I was so desperate to get rid of it that I used it anyway. To my surprise, it didnt work at all and it left my other children scratching their heads including myself. So not only did I waste time and money but my whole family ended up getting head lice. I did some research of my own and found that my local Salon carries this prodcut called Lice Goodbye made from Fairy Tales. Its a natural non-toxic treatment that kills lice and their eggs...I treated my whole family and within 48 hours we were all lice free. They make these wonderful products too called Rosemary Repel that keep the lice AWAY or "REPEL." I was skeptical but after seeing live lice running away from strands of hair that were sprayed with this stuff I became a believer! Been using the prodcuts since October 2010 and so far so good!! We use it everyday...highly recommend that parents consider using preventative products in their childs hair...I convinced all my friends to do the same especially since my children are constantly around theirs all the time! Plus, you just never know when your child will be exposed to lice...better safe then sorry! Their website is fairytaleshaircare.com in case anyone is interested.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Debbie

    What this article fails too mention, and what happened at my daughter's elementery school is that headphones many use for computers are a source of transmission. They should be inspected after each child uses them!!

    March 28, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Brian

    I have go through this battle with both of my daughters. One has very thick long hair, the other has thinner long hair. A couple of folks have mentioned what ultimately worked – Denorex. Actually any hair shampoo with the key ingredient, Salicylic Acid, works. That's why Listerine works as well – same ingredient. The main advantange of using Denorex and Listerine over RID or the other pediculites (bug poison) is they are cheaper and you can use them every day. And that's what we did – bathe the girls every night and wash their hair with Denorex and rinse at the end with Listerine (actually we used generic equvalents – even cheaper!). The first couple of times I had them sit in the tub and you literally see the bugs falling off! YUCK!
    It works because the Salicylic Acid essentially stuns the live ones and suffocates the eggs. I actually spoke with the folks a Denorex who knew about the use but were not approved by the FDA to advertise the use since it was not officially approved. But believe me it works. Just do it every day for 2 weeks and you'll have no problems. If you're really paranoid, follow up with a wash every weekend just in case.

    March 28, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Relictus

    I feel that lice – both head and body – are easy targets for permanent eradication. This type of ailment is far too common, and completely preventable if we worked hard on it. We got rid of Polio, please, someone do something about the lice!

    March 28, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mary C

    my daughter had lice last summer, what a horrible experience. googled head lice and found the following....http://www.myhomeremedies.com/static/head-lice.html. We put vinegar on her hair and put it up in a shower cap and them rinsed with vinegar every day. Bought Teatree oil and mixed with water in a spray bottle and sprayed carpets, mattress, box spring, couch etc. Tea tree is a natural insecticide and I understand that peppermint oil is good also. Also put all pillows and couch cushions out on the patio in the heat. I have put tea tree oil in ALL of our shampoos and put a little behind each ear before school every day. Of course she sat in front of me every day and I went thru her hair for hours. I started out with the over the counter stuff but think that the tea tree oil/vinegar treatments were what finally did the trick. We are also keeping her hair short from now on just in case.

    March 28, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Lisa

    I have removed my kids from public school due to this issue andknow home school them. Our school must breed them for it to be as bad as its been for over 2 years. My kids were constantly getting them and I would spend hours and hours picking those darn nits out, hours and hours, its frustrating, our school WILL NOT let kids back in once you have been sent home with lice UNLESS EVERY SINGLE NIT is GONE!! EVERY ONE!! I would treat and my kids get a clean bill of health and within two weeks they got them again. Someone is not treating their kids, obviously. I have spent thousands in 2 years to control this and NOTHING works and I mean NOTHING. When my kids is sitting there for 20 minutes with RID or NIX on their heads and the blasted lice are still crawling around, jeez, Im sorry BUT nothing works to kill these things, NOTHING!! I will not allow my kids to go back to that school until they do something about it. I even called the Health Dept about it. For one thing, they let the kindergardners take NAPS on the floor-duh- they dont get the fact that will help spread them. WHAT KILLS THESE THINGS?????

    March 28, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristin

      I think schools need to research this issue more and amend their "no nit" policies as I think it is impractical and doesn't address the real issue which is the ongoing removal of the live lice to prevent more eggs from being laid. I believe schools should allow children back in school when no new live lice are present and then check those children periodically to make sure their infestation is truly resolved. However, parents need to check their child's head daily or every other day for new live lice for at least 2 weeks to break the cycle as the existing eggs on the head will hatch and new lice will be born to lay new eggs perpetuating the infestation. If you catch all of the baby lice before they are capable of laying new eggs you can break the cycle. But in my experience, many parents go out and buy the container of Rid, throw it on their child's head and assume it did the job. 1.) Rid and other products like it are not 100% effective at killing live lice and have limited efficacy at killing eggs. 2.) Rid and other products like it are pesticides and given their limited effectiveness, I'm not sure the risk of applying a pesticide to your child's head is worth it.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Kristin-I agree its frustrating what their school is doing. I checked my kids hair nightly and would use all the little tricks. Their hair would be clean and nit free before their let back in. I never agreed with their deal with ALL NITS GONE before their let back in. This school doesnt have a clue. I was treating them every 4-5 days when it was out of control for weeks and months straight until I had had enough and pulled them. Their friends and families are still dealing with the lice problems and I dont allow my kids to sleep over anywhere because of it. I cant afford to keep these treatments up. To expensive

      March 28, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
  21. Mom of 5

    We had a promblem in Kindergarten. One of the parents suggested the rid and then spray her hair every week with old fashioned listerine. We never had another problem even with 5 kids. The lady explained it was an old army trick. It worked for us even when it was going around in the classroom.

    March 28, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. barbie

    Head lice can be hard to get rid of. I worked with kids for many year. #1 thing that always worked. Oil. Olive oil seemed to be the best, the thicker the better. Put it all over the hair leave on (cover hair with plastic bag completely) for a but 1/2 hour then wash with shampoo and conditioner. Wash a 2nd time if needed to get out all the oil. Then 3 days later repeat. Make sure you wash all bedding as directed by normal lice shampoo. The oil kills the live lice and coats the eggs. Also helps with removing the eggs. I started by trying regular cooking oil that was in my kitchen. I found the olive oil is easier to wash out (and gives a shine to your hair) and really good on thick hair. Hope this helps.

    March 28, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Susan

    My middle school son brought home the little buggies to share with his preschool sister. Tried the RID-X treatment but didn't work at all. Part of my problem is that my vision (even with corrective lenses) isn't sufficient to see and remove all the lice. My sister recommended the ROBI-COMB (bought mine on Amazon). Simply put it is a metal comb that runs a small amount of electricity through the tightly packed metal teeth. The tips of the comb that touch your child's scalp are rubber coated so no shocks, but if the comb runs into a louse it stops buzzing and you find the zapped bug on the teeth. Clean it with the brush provided and when it starts buzzing again, start combing again. Note it only works on dry hair, but it takes less than 5 minutes for me to go over my kids heads twice to be sure.

    Then someone turned me onto the Tea Tree Oil which worked like a charm! Now I add a few drops of the oil that I bought from a local natural foods co-op to their shampoo bottles during lice season here and haven't had a problem since.

    March 28, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Sue

    MAYONNAISE! The first time my daughter came home from her weekend visitation with her dad with lice, I panicked. Those things (along with fleas) give me the heebie-jeebies big time. I went out and spent OVER $200 on cleaning products and lice removal products, and cut my daughter's long, beautiful hair to make removal of the nits easier. My husband and I spent literally all night washing everything in the house. 2 weeks later, another visit to her dad's – guess what – she came home with lice again. This time I didn't even let her into the house. (poor kid) I made her stand on the porch while I checked her head, and sure enough – she had them again. I checked everyone in our house, and no one else had them, not a single nit – so I knew where they were coming from. This time, though, I had done some research. I had her undress in the garage, put her clothes in a bag, and slathered her head with mayonnaise. Topped her off with a showercap that she slept in overnight, and – voila! – the next morning, I combed all the dead (suffocated – ha!) lice and nits out of her hair and washed the mayonnaise out. I learned a few things that I really didn't want to learn – lice breathe through openings on their sides, and they can hold their breath for quite a long time – so no, you can't drown them in the shower or bathtub with just regular washing. The mayonnaise is thick and oily enough to seal their breathing holes shut, and the little buggers suffocate. Kind of like justice. The oil in the mayo makes the glue that holds the nits to the hair shaft dissolve away, so they come off too. I also invested in a Robi Comb and ran it through my daughter's hair occasionally just to be sure there wasn't anything hiding that I couldn't see. We've never had another problem, but I certainly sympathize with anyone who has had to deal with this. It's a nightmare.

    March 28, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Susan

    I must make a correction in which so many people do not realize. Lice DO JUMP. Both of my kids had lice several times when they were young and I saw them jump many, many times. The first time I ever came in contact with lice was I thought my daughter had fleas in her hair. I was able to get one and smother it, put it in a ziploc bag and took it to the vet because we had just gotten a new dog. The vet said this is not a flea it is human lice. I was shocked. I did do all the picking of the nits and then smothered everyone in the house with mayonnaise (wonderful conditioner) and then followed up with treatment and sprayed everything in the house with a lice spray along with the car seats/head rests.

    March 28, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      I agree, so tired of people saying they dont jump. They do and have seen it many times. Thankful someone else out there has seen this!!

      March 28, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse |
    • Richard Pollack

      Lice are physically incapable of jumping. If the creature jumped, it cannot be a louse. Combing hair when the humidity is low can cause some lice to be propelled by electrostatic force. That is far different than jumping. Wetting the hair with water will do much to reduce electrostatic charging.

      March 29, 2011 at 08:21 | Report abuse |
  26. Ian

    Its funny that I see so many different remedies and still not see the one recommended by the professional knit pickers who work in the area. We live in an area where people still use a lot of old world remedies. They recommend using the lice combs and methodically go through each strand of hair under a strong light combing all the little eggs and whatnot out, but first they completely saturate the hair with a cheap bottle of hair conditioner. No special brand, just whatever you can find. But they use a lot of it. If you thing about it... It makes sense. It will suffocate lice and since it is meant to be put on hair it doesn't do a great deal of damage. It also makes the hair, no matter how thick it is, very easy to manage. It washes out easily too. Also they say the thing about washing everything in the house and doing a major cleaning.

    March 28, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. joe in tucker

    Very politely, and then serve them dinner with a nice wine and then ask them to politely leave, like the libs foreign policy!!!

    March 28, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. veronica

    I did not see a mention of the new pediculocide, spinosad (Natroba), which is available by prescription. Most infestations are successfully treated with one treatment, and no nit combing is required, although it may be helpful to remove the dead lice. This iproduct is an alternative to the Nix, to which many lice have become resistant.

    March 28, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Lisa

    If you will wash your childs hair in T-Gel shampoo once a week you will avoid lice they will run as fast as they can dont think they like the smell of the tar.but trust me it works.I had a child to come to my house and the poor child you could see them crawling and my daughter did not get them lucky me.but I have faith that the T-Gel worked.try it you will be happy you did.

    March 28, 2011 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. janie

    I tried evrything on my daughter when she got head lice. Her hair was VERY thick and long and I spent hours after a treatment shampoo combing and picking. Somehow, the lice would return to life and here we would go again. I really thought I may have to shave her head. Then I read an article that suggested applying lots of vasoline to the hair and then cover with a shower cap and sleep overnight . I did that and and that ended the problem because the vasoline smothers any live eggs waiting to hatch! I was never so relieved in my life!!

    March 28, 2011 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Amy

    We are currently in the middle of a nit incident (second one this school year). The single most important thing to do is to use a really good metal nit picking comb, and to be persistent. You have to check every single night for at least two weeks. I found olive oil helps a lot, kills the buggers and makes it easier to comb out any debris. I've also hear that Fairytale shampoo helps to repel them after your kid is lice free.

    March 28, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Misty Janssen

    I could almost cry for you right now... I'll be honest, I didn't read the other posts, so this may be a repeat, but it is worth repeating because it works. My niece has a terrible case last year and it left me in tears. the ONLY thing that worked for us was Cetaphil. I started on a Friday night, i used an entire bottle of Cetaphil cleanser in a hair dye bottle (the ones that look like a squeezy ketchup bottle at 50s diners). I sectioned her hair and keeping the tip of the bottle right at the scalp I gridded her hair. First I went left to right, then resectioned and went top to bottom. message it in and squeeze any excess on the hair shaft rub it in. wait 30 mins or so and then the time consuming task of combing through begins. I bought a few nit combs at the local drug store. I sectioned the hair and combed out the excess cetaphil. what didn't come out with the first comb through I left in there and blew dry with a blow dryer on high heat. (note: I have my niece blow dry her hair every time she washes it now) after it was all dried I covered it with a shower cap. she slept in it. in the morning she showered and I combed through again with the nit comb. We did this ritual every friday night for a month. my husband thought I was crazy, but after 3 months of lice this was my last hope. I was LITERALLY going to cut her long beautiful hair... good luck!!

    March 28, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Beth

    My daughter has and two outbreaks PER month since November, i've contacted the school and talked with the nurse now every month. My childs school REFUSES to check the children's head. They want me to find out which child keeps giving it to mine! I'm to the point of pulling my child out of the school. I will follow some of these remedies, i just cant afford to do treatments twice a month and then on top of it replace every pillow and bedding. This has been the worst year for my whole family. I've tried vasoline in the hair, that works really good, BUT it's a pain to get out!
    To the families of kids dealing with this, I no longer feel alone in this battle, I'm glad I can have parents to talk to about this. Good luck!

    March 28, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      Beth- if you have had issues with your child bringing home lice from school all the time and they refuse to do the school checks then you need to call your local Health Department. Report it to them and by law they will have to contact the school and they can force the checks to be done. Heck, even call your local tv station and report anonymously about Lice Outbreaks and such and such school and the school administration will not do head checks to stop the spread. Bet, that would tick off the local school board and get them moving. Try these to force the school to cooperate

      March 28, 2011 at 18:19 | Report abuse |
  34. Beth

    Lisa- thanks for the heads up

    March 28, 2011 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jennifer

    Mayonnaise and shower cap like the one person said. It's the ONLY thing I've ever found to get rid of them quickly and without spending a fortune.

    March 28, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cathy

      I agree with Jennifer. Mayonnaise sounds great. I used Crisco and bathing suit cap. All I know is, they were suffocated. Washing it out was a pain, the nitpicking with a tweezers, another pain. My daughter's hair was thick & long, she was 8 yrs old. Just felt it was part of parenting. Oh, and friendship...a friend who is a nurse, gave me a break with the nitpicking one day!

      March 29, 2011 at 01:40 | Report abuse |
  36. Rick

    My girlfriend had a terrible case she caught while working at the hospital. We tried everything they make, tea tree oil and bottles and bottles of lice poison, but never seemed to get them all. What we finally found success with was mayonaise, i coated her hair in a very large amount of it, then let it sit for 30 minutes in a hair net. This suffocates the lice, we repeated it a few days later for good measure and the lice were all gone. The huge amount of fat and oil in mayonaise (you have to use REAL mayonaise, dont get low fat, fat free or artificial) is what apparently suffocates the lice and seemed to kill the eggs..the mayonaiise also leaves your hair very soft =) Its natural and beats putting all the poison on your head, I wish we knew about it earlier.

    March 28, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Wendy

    Lice MD, a nit comb and a lit magnifying glass helped with my kids. The LiceMD makes the hair slick enough for those nit combs to pull right through. I have a child with very long hair and I got them the first time using this method (and rechecking every couple of days for about 2 weeks). The stuff washes out after a couple of shampoos and is non-toxic.

    The magnifying glass helps with identifying the nits – you can really tell the difference between a nit and other debris. We also have a deep freeze and were able to kill anything on a favorite bedtime toy and pillow by bagging them and freezing them for 24 hours.

    Our pediatrician also recommended a tea tree shampoo or essential oil drops for prevention. So far no reinfestation.

    March 28, 2011 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Kim

    I tried everything out there but couldn't get rid of them. A product called LiceKiller was what finally worked!!

    March 28, 2011 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. blessedgeek

    When I was a kid, more than 40 years ago, we would have coconut oil massaged on our hair and scalp and left overnight. Real stinky stuff. Then shampooed away the next day. Why coconut oil? So stinky that even mosquitoes refuse to bite you.

    March 28, 2011 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Jeff

    Call in a professional company. They remove it quickly, usually in an hour or two, and the legitimate companies guarantee their work. Your child should be able to return to school the next day. Worth every penny, I promise!

    March 28, 2011 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. john

    just use frontline tick/flea drops

    March 28, 2011 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Richard Pollack

      It is unwise and potentially dangerous to apply certain veterinary products to human beings.

      March 29, 2011 at 08:16 | Report abuse |
  42. Jen

    MAYO MAYO MAYO!!!!!!!

    My daughter had them last winter, and this winter. (along with all her friends...mysteriously, both times after a sleepover birthday party!)

    I REFUSED to put pesticides on her head, so I started with the mayo, and guess what? I never had to end up using the pesticides, or anything else!!

    You should also get a METAL lice comb (I found a RID brand set, at CVS, that I have saved in the junk drawer, because I KNOW it's gonna come back next year, the rate we're going!).

    I start with a full new jar of econo brand mayonaise. I slop it all in and on her hair, being careful to cover EVERY STRAND possible!!! (it's hard when you have a lot, or long hair, but just do your best!)
    I make sure it's all smoothed so there's no air holes in the mayo. Then I put a cheap shower cap over her hair. If it's really cheap, I use two.
    Do this all right before bed!!!
    Put a towel or two across the pillow, and sleep all night with the mayo in your hair. (no, she did NOT get food poisoning from rancid mayo!!)
    In the morning, two shampoos should be enough. It was easier to rinse out than I thought.

    THEN, use your lice combs, to go through EVERY section of hair. Rinse the combs out as you see black or white dots (lice and eggs) on them.
    Check your shirt, too. (although they will most likely be all dead...they do get flicked on your shirt, as you brush your child's hair, or your own! Ew!)

    Every day, use the lice combs, for a week or two. Keep checking the head, too.

    In about 10 days, do the WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN!!!! (because any eggs that were left in the hair, may hatch, and you'll have lice again. They say that NOTHING kills the eggs. Not even pesticides, which you're supposed to apply twice, also!)
    So when any eggs hatch, you'll again use the mayo to smother them, and you should be done after this.
    Keep combing for a week or so later, just to make sure, but this should work.

    Last year, the mayo worked on the first try. This year, it took twice.
    But it's SOOOO worth it, to not poison your kids with pesticides!!!

    I'm not a natural freak, either, but this worked.

    Good luck!

    March 28, 2011 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Geneva Youngberg


    March 28, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Montana Mama

    Mayonnaise, and a shower cap. Several years ago, my daughter had lice, and two chemical treatments on her very thick, long curly hair did nothing. I was hesitant to put any more of those nasty chemicals on her hair, so I turned to my local organic grocery store for advice. The suggestions ran from coconut shampoo, (did nothing), to olive oil to mayonnaise. The goopiness of the mayo suffocates the nasty critters, while the vinegar in the mayo dissolves that "glue" that holds the nits to the hair shaft. You still have to comb and pick, and bag any clothes or bedding, but the mayo (left on for a good long time – with a shower cap) and a box of cookies for the poor kid did wonders.

    March 28, 2011 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Terry

    First off, let me tell you that this advice comes from at least 3 years worth of experience. I dealt with lice on my three girls, ages 6-11, and my wife over the course of 3 years.

    Rid does not work.... Period. It may kill some lice but I put lice directly in some Rid once and watched them crawl around in it, past 20 minutes. I wouldn't use anything chemical on your child. There is some natural stuff, LiceMD, and another one walmart use to carry. The later you can leave in all night, with a shower cap on your kids head. This killed just about everything, but you can NEVER get the eggs too. If so, then they would never come back.

    The ONLY way to successful rid your child of lice (especially bad cases) is to treat their hair EVERY SEVEN DAYS for about 6 weeks. That may be a bit much, but they will be gone. Also, come out each time, but you don't have to kill yourself looking for every single egg.

    March 28, 2011 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Shirley U Jest

    Treat each of your daughter's lice with the same loving care they do. Pets are important in a child's life and lice can be closer to your kids than any other pet.

    March 28, 2011 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Squarf of the Apocalypse

    A jigger of vodka splashed over the affected areas, plus and handful of sand. The lice get drunk and kill each other with boulders. The other approach is to have her change boy friends.

    March 28, 2011 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Mr. Sensitive

    Aaaahhhh....just cut their f*****g heads off.

    March 28, 2011 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. All Are Star Stuff

    We struggled with lice, too. I've never seen lice jump, but it's been shown that pulling a brush through hair or pulling a sweater over the head can fling lice a foot or so.
    We tried everything. The stuff at the store (Nix and RID) barely slowed the lice down. Nitpicking was a pain with three girls every night. Mayonnaise worked beautifully, but the smell was horrible and it was a pain to wash out. It's really the goopiness of the mayo you want, not anything special about mayonnaise itself.
    Instead of mayonnaise, get a really heavy, thick hair conditioner (we used Pantene). Just like mayonnaise, coat all the hair with it in tiny sections, right to the roots. Wrap the whole head in Glad Press 'n' Seal, put on a shower cap, and go to sleep with a towel over the pillow. Wake up the next morning and wash out the conditioner. The lice slide right out and the hair is gorgeous! The nits must be suffocated too, because we only ever needed one application to get rid of everything.

    March 29, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Fan

    We wash hair with a bit of kerosene mixed with water and that will get rid of all louse.

    March 29, 2011 at 03:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Richard Pollack

      Never use kerosene or gasoline for treating head lice. A few children are terribly burned each year from such misguided efforts.

      March 29, 2011 at 08:14 | Report abuse |
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